Vietnam vet awarded Silver Star after 45 years
In 1967 the average cost of new house was $14,250, the average income was $7,300 a year and gas was 33 cents a gallon.
The Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs played the first Super Bowl. The Berlin Wall, dividing West Germany from the Communist east, stood tall and long.
Last, but not least, 475,000 U.S. troops were fighting in Vietnam.
U.S. Army Alaska Commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo recognized the heroism of one of those Soldiers Feb. 4 at Fort Wainwright, awarding Dr. Paul Taylor of Fairbanks a long-overdue Silver Star for his heroism in battle.
An officer in Taylor's unit had recommended him for the award in 1967, but was medically evacuated and the paperwork was lost in the shuffle.
Taylor's former commander resubmitted the award recently, and learned that it would require approval from a member of Congress, because so many years had elapsed.
After Taylor's friends and family appealed to Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, the senator's office contacted military officials and learned that Taylor would finally receive the Silver Star.
Begich attended the ceremony and presented Taylor with a U.S. flag and a Congressional coin.
Taylor was no ordinary Soldier, Palumbo noted in his remarks.
"In 1967, Dr. Paul Taylor was buck Sergeant Paul Taylor," Palumbo said. "He was part of a relatively new group of elite Soldiers trained in something called unconventional warfare."
Palumbo read from a statement written 45 years ago by Taylor's former executive officer.
"As the 2nd Company Reconnaissance Platoon leader, Sergeant Taylor held one of the most difficult and demanding positions a young man could hold." Palumbo read. "Sergeant Taylor's bravery and leadership are legendary among Chinese mercenaries, from an ethnic minority, known as Nungs.
All U.S. members of the recon platoon were volunteers … even though the draft was going on, this unit was [all] volunteers, because of the danger.
On Sergeant Taylor's last operation, he was needed to temporarily take command of Second Company and lead it against a battalion of Viet Cong, reinforced with their own weapons company.
During a four-hour period, Sergeant Taylor's company made contact with the enemy six times; and each time, because of their aggressive actions, routed the numerically superior Viet Cong forces from their positions," Palumbo read.
Taylor was seriously wounded in the fight, but continued to lead his element until contact with the enemy had broken off.
Palumbo described Taylor as "the real deal; an honest to goodness American hero."
"You might say you were just doing your job," Palumbo said, "but I think I can speak on behalf of all [attending the ceremony], that your actions were, without question, heroic and it's only right and proper to recognize and to celebrate that fact."
One of Taylor's former officers described the significance of Taylor's role during the Vietnam War.
"I met Paul 45 years ago when he joined the team," retired Col. Tom Myerchin said. "He was the youngest member of our team."
"The Mike Force (Mobile Strike Force) only took volunteers." he said. "You had to be a three-time volunteer: a parachutist, Green Beret and finally a Mike Forcer, and there were only five Mike Forces in the country and they were the core tactical strategic reserve for all the camps."
"Paul is one of our most cherished members and he gets my hearty congratulations and the congratulations of whole team for the presentation he is getting today," Myerchin said.
Article by Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy (U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs)